USA V International golf event is too one-sided – would a mixed team fare better?

The end of this year will see the (unlucky for some) 13th staging of the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, Australia. It is the tournament that pitches the best American players against an International team.

Essentially, the International (rest of the world) team comprises any top male player who is not eligible to play in the Ryder Cup (USA V Europe).

There are many parallels between the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup but, in my view, they are poles apart in terms of appeal and popularity.

One of the reasons for this disparity is that the Presidents matches are just too one-sided. In the previous dozen stagings of the cup the US team has won on 10 occasions. There was one draw and one victory for the International team, by coincidence on the same course – the Royal Melbourne – where it will be staged in the week of December 9-15, 2019.

Those who have been around long enough will recall that in the early Ryder Cups there was a similar one-sidedness with the Americans regularly beating the team from Britain and Ireland.

From the first Ryder Cup in 1927 until the Europeans became involved in 1979 the score was 18-3 in America’s favour with one famous draw in 1969.

When the Europeans entered the fray they more than evened things up. The score is USA 8, Europe 11 since then. There was one draw in 1989 but the Europeans retained the trophy by virtue of winning it two years earlier.

So, what can the International team do to stop the Presidents Cup becoming an irrelevance?

They can’t do what the British and Irish did and invite the rest of Europe (or anyone else for that matter) to get on board.

However, one idea that is being bandied around is the proposal to make the teams a mix of men and women, six of each.

Consider it … while the USA is not exactly short of good lady players, the introduction of leading International females might just balance things up a little.

At the time of writing, just one American – Lexi Thompson – features in the women’s top 10 ranked players. Eight of the rest would qualify for the International team. Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn sits at the top of the list followed by three South Koreans.

Lexi Thompson.

I expect traditionalists to balk at the idea. But, if an event is dying on its feet – as the Presidents Cup seems to be – I see little harm in trying. One thing the Presidents Cup does well is raise a lot of money for charity. It would be a shame to lose it.

The mixed teams idea was put forward by former LPGA professional Jeehae Lee.

Jeehae Lee

“Here’s an idea,” she tweeted. “Same format, same regions, but a mixed-team event. Best men and women competing for US v International.”

The BBC’s golf correspondent Iain Carter says he thinks it is unlikely to happen but he is far from dismissive of the idea.

Would the women’s game gain more than the men’s from such a format? Almost certainly, but where’s the harm in that? Thankfully, the idea that women can’t become members of certain golf clubs is fast disappearing.

Remember, women were only allowed to become members at the home of The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, for the first time in 2012.

Four years later members of the world’s oldest golf club, Muirfield in Scotland (1744), voted to stay all-male but changed their minds a year later. The R&A threatening to take it off the list of preferred venues for The Open probably played a part.

Although now open to women members, the club has said it has a backlog of people seeking membership and it would not artificially promote women up the list. To the best of my knowledge the first actual lady member is yet to be voted in.

As an aside, visitors are able to play at Muirfield on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This year the green fees are a mere £250 (about Bt10,600) a round – £350 if you wish to go around twice on the same day. That said, the winter green fees (until 14 March) are a snip at £110.

But, back to the women’s game. It is making great strides in Asia in general – and Thailand and South Korean in particular. I doubt if clubs in these countries ever even considered trying to block female membership. I hope not.

To date, just one of the Presidents Cups has been held in Asia – at Incheon in Korea. The venue for 2023 is yet to be determined though web research suggests at least two Canadian courses think they are in with a shout. Could Thailand join the list? With a mixed team, I think the interest would be heightened.

What has the International team got to lose? Apart from several more Presidents Cups!

 

By Dave Buckley